Income Opportunity: Writing Fake Internet Reviews

Sunday, August 21, 2011
(graphic: St. Claire, Inc.)
These days a company’s positive Internet review may be nothing more than paid phoniness, as the competition for good feedback has encouraged businesses to hire individuals to write something nice about them.
From Amazon to Citysearch to Yelp, it’s difficult if not impossible to distinguish a genuine five-star rating from another crafted for hire. For $5 or $10 a piece, people are posting rave reviews about products and services, and in the process distorting the value of online reviews.
Researchers from Cornell recently tried to craft a computer algorithm for detecting fake reviewers. They found writers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and had them write 400 positive but fake reviews of Chicago hotels, and then mixed them with 400 positive TripAdvisor reviews that they believed were genuine. A panel of three judges couldn’t distinguish the real thing from the BS.
“We evolved over 60,000 years by talking to each other face to face,” Jeffrey Hancock, a Cornell professor of communication and information science who worked on the project, told The New York Times. “Now we’re communicating in these virtual ways. It feels like it is much harder to pick up clues about deception.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff
In a Race to Out-Rave, 5-Star Web Reviews Go for $5 (by David Streitfeld, New York Times)
A Rave, a Pan, or Just a Fake? (by David Segal, New York Times)


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